« AnteriorContinua »
casions, discover a strong understanding ; but his discernment is frequently blunted by prejudice ; and a mutability of fentiment, to which he seems peculiarly prone, diminishes the credit, that might otherwise have been due to his opinions and judgment.
A Day in Turkey; or, the Rufian Slaves. A Comedy, as a led
at the Theatre Royal, in Covent Garden. By Mrs. Cowley. 8vo. Is. 6d. Robinsons. 1792. M RS. Cowley's plays have been in general distinguished for
the ease, the sprightliness, and the naiveté of the dialogue. The characters have seldom been 'new or striking, and, if we found some additional fcature as a mark to distinguish any one from the common herd, it was the principal novelty that we could discover. Yet, with a slight plot, and no uncommon characters, she has often amused the chearless hour, and received her full share of applause: we mean not to recall or 'disapprove of the commendation we have bestowed: we wish not to take one from the number of plaudits. In tena derness, we endeavour to forget her tragical efforts.
To fail in the later attempts has been the fortune of many dramatic authors of considerable merit; nor must Mrs. Coivley expect to be exempted from human frailties. Lively dialogue is, perhaps, one of the tenderest flowers. The air will tarnish its florid hue, and all-devouring time destroy its fragrance. Our author should, perhaps, have stopped sooner, and neither have given room for the foriner imputations of supplying wit by indelicacy; nor, for what we are compelled to say of the play before us, that the spirit and ease are too apparently afsumed, that puns and equivoques are brought to supply the place of wit and humour.
The Preface might have been omitted : it is only in. tended as an apology for the introduction of politics. The sentiments of A la Greque are those of a democrat; Mrs. Cowley should not have said, of an emigrunt Frenchman," fince that term is fo generally applied to the opposite party. But politics, she adds, are unfeminine, apologising at the Tame time to Miss Woolstonecraft, 'whose book, she says, contains such a body of mind, as she hardly ever met with.' Duval's two ponderous folios of Aristotle's works lie now before us, and perhaps those may be styled a body of mind'—but to contain a body of mind !-No; the phrase can never be current on this fide of St. George's Channel.
The plot of the play is of so flight a texture that we fear almost to touch it. A Rulian was
married, his wife seized on her wedding-day; and he, in pursuit of her, 'enatting prodia
gies of valour,' as all knight-errents do, when they are despes rately in love, or feel fevere disappointment, is taken prisoner by the Turk wko had purchased his Alexina. Ibrahim, the master of Alexina, fees Paulina, another new flave, who has not the same reason to shun him, marries her, and Orloff departs sul peace with his bride.—The conduct of such a story cannot be the subject of animadversion, and the persons represented are good Ruffians and Turks-in name. A la Greque speaks in character; and, if to be a Frenchman is to be impertinent and abfurd, our author may be said to have succeeded in this respect. These are, however, the suggestions only of an attentive petufal; on the stage it inay be an entertaining performance.
We shall select one scene as a specimen of Mrs. Cowley's style of humour: it is not one of the worst in this performance.
• Enter Orloff, surrounded by Turks. • Muley. Courageous Rusijan, thou art ours! Could valour have saved th-e, captivity and you had never met - Yous empress, we trust, has not many such soldiers in the neighbouring camp.Come, droop not, Sir, this is the fortune of war.
• Orlof. Had I been made your prisoner, whillt on a post of duty, I could have borne my lot - A soldier can support not only death, but even lavery, when a sense of duty gives dignity to his chains; but my chains are base ones, for I reconnoiter'd without command, and have loit my liberty without glory.
· A la Gr. Then I have lost my liberty too without glory, for I attended you without coinmand, and now Oh, le diable! I am Valet de chambre to a lave!
Turk, Let not that affect thee! The fortune of war, which has wounded your master's pride, ought to elate yours, for you are now his equal-both Naves alike.
• A la Gr. [Eagerly. ] Are we so? And has he no farther right to command me, nor threaten me? Kind fr, tell me but that tell me but that -! • Turk. None, none.
A la Gr. Hum! (Puts his hat 01, and takes out his fnuff box, takes jouf, ihen goes to his master, and offers his box.] Take a pinch, don't be thy:
• Orloff. Scoundrel! [7 brows up the box with bis arm. ]
• A la Gr. Nay, no hard names~let us be civil to each other, as brother siaves ought to be—And now I think of it – Hark ye! I suppose your slaves take rank according to their usefulnefs. · Turk. Certainly.
A la Gr. Well then, my master-I mean that man there, who was my master, can do no earthly thing but fight, whilft I, on the contrary, am expert at several.
· Maley. Your qualifications?
• A la Gr. They are innumerable-I can sing you pretty little French airs, and Italian canzonettas-No man in Paris, fir - for I have the honour to be a Frenchman-No man in Paris underftands the science of the powder-puff better than myself - I can frize you in a taste beyond-Oh, what you are all crops, I feefore fronts, and back fronts-Oh, those vile turbans, my genius will be lost amongst you, and a frizeur will be of no more use than an oyster-woman-Why, you look as though you had all been scalp'd, and cover'd your crowns with your pillows.
• Turk. Chriftian, our turbans are too elevated a subject for your sport.
A la Gr. Dear fir, painting to his turban, and then to the ground) drop the subject, it will be a proof of national taste.
• Mxley. Thy speech is licentious and empty; hut in a Frenchman we can pardon it-'tis national tafe-However, if your boasted qualifications end here, it is probable, you will be a Dave as little distinguish'd as your master.
• A la Gr. Pardonnez moi! I can do things he never thought of-You have heard the story of the basket-maker amongst savages? I do not despair of seeing my master my fervant yet-Courage, monsieur le compre! I'll treat you with great condescenfion, depend on't, and er.deavour to make you forget in all things the distance between us.
* Muley. He seems too deeply absorb’d in melancholy, to be · rouled by thy impertinence!
• A la Gr. Poor young man! Times are alter'd, to be fure; and at present he's a little down in the mouth; but he's fond of music, cheer him with a Turkish air--Helas! all the air we have will be Turkish now.
Orloff. Ah no! forbear your music, and bring me your chains! Drag me to your dungeons! The inteliectual bitterness of this moment cannot be increased by outward circumstance.
• A la Gr. Chains and dungeons! Why sure the ghost of our dead Bastille has not found its way hither - Hey, mefieurs ! Have you lantern pof's too, and hanging marquiffes in this country?
• Orlof: [angrily.) Peace!
• A la Gr. Peace! That's a bold demand. - Your empress can't find it at the head of a hundred thousand men, and the most sublime grand fignior is obliged to put on his night-cap w thout it, though he has a million of these pretty gentlemen to allist hirBesides, England has engross’d the commodity.
• Orlof. Come, fir, let us not loiter here I would have my fate determined, and my misery complete. Alas! is it not ready fo? Yes, my heart has been long the property of fortu and it will never relinquith its claims.
• Muley. I fall lead you to the palace of the baffa Ibrahimit is in the neighbourhood of yonder camp which he commands, what your fate
may then be, his humour deternines. • A la Gr. Then I hope we shall catch him in a good humous, and what care I whether a Turk or a Russian has the honour to be my master? Now you see the misfortune of being born a count ! Had he loft no more than I have, he'd be as careless as I am Come, brother lave-no ceremony, no ceremony, I beg.
[Exeunt- A la Greque pulls back his master, and walks out be.
The Road to Ruin. A Comedy. As it is abied at the Theatre
Royal, Covent Garden. By T. Holcroft. 8vo. Is. 6d. De
brett. 1792. MR.
R. Holcroft has been a successful adventurer on the stage,
and the present comedy shows that his spirit and invention have not yet declined. The events of the comedy are varied, the dialogue lively, the characters discriminated, and the minuter traits of the heart developed with skill. Impartial criticism must, however, add, that the plot is a common one : no intrigue is artfully inveloped, no reverse of fortune fixes the attention by the unexpected change of situation; some of the characters are coloured too firongly; and Harry Dornton, who reminds us of the giddy thoughtless Harry Chesterfield, in Mrs. Smith's last novel, is too often on the brink of incon, sistency. The denouement, it may be also observed, is obvi. oully an imitation of that of the West Indian.
Harry Dornton is the son of an eminent banker, a partner in the banking-house, and, from gambling, truly in the Road to Ruin. His father, good-natured, kind, and indulgent, does not check his fon's follies till his debts have been almost fatal to himself; and then, with the inconsistency which affection ftruggling with resentment must produce, checks them imperfectly, and with air occasionally remitted severity. The friend of Harry Dornton is Jack Milford, the natural son of the wi. dow Warren's last husband. By a former marriage she has a daughter called Sophia, a lively girl just emerging from the controul of her grandmother, and for the first time in London at the dangerous age of seventeen; but sensible, chea ful, and benevolent,
Such is nearly the fituation of the ciệcumstances at the commencement of the comedy. Mr. Dornton refufes his son admittance into the house; and, with his usual inconsistency, at last grants it. Jack Milford accompanies him ; and we find that his father's will, long supposed to be loft, is discovered in a private drawer, and sent to England, (for he is represented
to have died on the continent) by a gentleman who has not yet produced it; as well as that the artless tenderness of Sophia had made an equal impression on the heart of Harry Dornton. But ruin haftens on; and the heart of Harry, truly affectionate to his father, feels feverely the consequences of his indiscretion. In a moment of contrition, he resolves to offer his hand to the superannuated coquettish widow, who accepts of him with a satisfaction scarcely diffembled: the innocent resentment of Sophy Freelove is well drawn, and the absurdity of the widow represented in colours not unsuitable to the indelicacy of her conduct. Her other lover (for the reputation of her immense fortune did not make a single impression only) is a modern jockey, a character we suspect, yet in this age of extravagance we speak with reserve and diffidence, rather overcharged.
l'his gambling racer meets with an infamous usurer, who offers his atitance for the moderate sum of 50,000 pounds, with a promise of certainly prevailing on the widow to marry him. The secret influence appears to be his possessing the will of her late husband, which was brought to him by mistake : his name Silky resembling so nearly that of the real executor Sulky, the partner of Mr. Dornton. While this infamous bargain was transacting, Milford and Sulky, who had been led to suspect the intrigue by the indiscretion of Goldfinch, the gambling jockey, conceal themselves in a closet, and burst into the room at the moment of the conclusion. The event is easily conjectured, and each party rendered equally happy by what they lose, as well as what they gain, except Goldfinch and the widow.—The subordinate circumstances we need not mention ; nor are they all deserving of our praise. The absurd, extravagant benevolence of Harry, in giving Jack Milford the money saved by his father in the impending ruin of the bank, faved for the purpose of reimbursing the widow the sum given for his relief, when the marriage was designed, may be excused by the admirers of a similar unjustifiable generosity in the popular character, Charles Surface, but it can never be approved of by the cooler reader. The duel also is too sentimental to deserve much commendation. The first scene introduces the father with great propriety and force.
• Mr. Dorrton alone. Paft two o'clock and not yet returned ! Well, well!- It's my own fault !—Mr. Smith !
• Enter Mr. Smitb. • Mr. Smith. Sir. • Dornton. Is Mr. Sulky come in ? • Mr. Smith. No, fir.
• Dornton. Are you sure Harry Dornton said he should return tonight?